Friday, May 27, 2011

Interesting Week - Preparedness

Between Joplin, MO suffering from tornado devastation and a long line of huge storms with tornadoes passing through on Tuesday, the local CBS TV station polled viewers asking if they were going to step up their emergency preparations. Surprisingly, since the broadcast area includes Wichita Falls, TX that was devastated in 1979, 73% of the respondents said, "No."

One couple, looking like they're past the mid-life crisis stage of life, said they always have water and other items in each of their vehicles because they've learned to be prepared. I've been thinking along that line simply so I won't have to haul stuff out to the car I might forget under the stress of having to evacuate suddenly and to have it already there when I go on road trips.

Considering the government initiated National Preparedness Month in 2003 and all the natural disasters that have hit this country since, I wonder why it's more important for so many people to have the latest electronic games and smart phones than it is to set some things aside for the proverbial rainy day, not even having a basic, inexpensive car survival kit to keep themselves from freezing to death.

Are the relatively few of us who are prepared, or at least are trying to be, living amongst a nation of hedonists or are they just stupid people who should be left subject to the law of survival of the fittest? How many of us could be that hard-hearted knowing that we might need help ourselves someday despite our preparedness?

Maybe I'm fortunate in that I've been able to draw from other peoples' experience and knowledge as well as my own. My father grew up in Idaho on a farm which necessitates self-sufficiency. My mother and I grew up in Honolulu, Hawaii. She and her parents lived through the bombing of Pearl Harbor and the initial shock, panic, and subsequent war conditions. As a family, we experienced a hurricane and tropical storms along with warnings of tsunamis that, fortunately, never materialized.

As an apartment-dweller, I went back to my experience during a spring break in Honolulu living with a high school friend and her family on the 36' ketch they sailed from the state of Washington to Hawaii trying to remember what they had and how they did things in their small, compact, floating home. I'm also drawing from my experiences traveling, hiking, car camping, and camping with horses with friends who were in the Army.

Dad, who drove through all the lower 48 states plus parts of Canada and Mexico, taught me how to navigate using a road map during our Mainland road trips. I learned how to navigate using a topo map, lensatic compass, and protractor courtesy of the U.S. Army coming out #4 on the test which pretty well embarrassed many of the men. A few real men that were there near me congratulated me on doing so well; the rest were sullen. To the latter, I didn't exist.

Having been taught to put an extra gallon of water in the car trunk when crossing deserts on road trips and stocking several gallons of water in my apartment because of the Y2K bug scare, I already knew to have water on hand for emergencies. Traveling through areas flooded out by 2006's Pineapple Express prompted me to keep extra food on hand.

Also in 2006, a friend in WA advised me to have a 72-hour kit. I didn't know what one was, but found out and have been working on it basing my kit on hiking's 10 Essential Systems I adapted to cover travel and general preparedness to suit me and my lifestyle.

As a result, I've been thanked for sharing what little knowledge I've shared and someone suggested I write a book. At the time, I said "no" because I rather concentrate on writing novels, but thinking about what I know and my experiences and all the research I've done over the past 2+ years for hydration alone (there's a lot of misinformation out there and even the CDC is putting out info that isn't as accurate as it could be), I'm reconsidering.

Already having gear for hiking, camping, and traveling, I'm actually farther along with my own preparedness than this blog indicates. At this point, I'm filling in relatively small holes and organizing or reorganizing.

For the Communication category, because of the tornadoes of the past few days, I'm thinking wearing a lanyard with a whistle during storms, maybe my hiking survival lanyard since I already have it set up, would help get me found faster if I'm under debris, conscious, and able to blow my whistle.

I consider the Documentation category to be incomplete because I misplaced the key to my fireproof lock box which is way too heavy for air travel or evacuation if I have to go on foot. My passport is out because of traveling; I couldn't find the key to put it back in the lock box.

For Finances, I have a little cash on hand in case plastic can't be used due to power outage, but should have much more. A friend in Alabama who experienced April's storms that took out the electricity in her area putting stores and gas stations on a cash-basis said her residential area was without power for 5 days but power wasn't fully restored for 11 days.

For the Transportation category, I need to gather everything together to be able to Grab & Go quickly. Of course, my primary mode of transportation is my car, but what if I encounter a situation like in the movie, "The Happening," where people leave their vehicles to proceed on foot?

A large backpacker's backpack would be best, but since I'm travel-oriented already having a couple of carry-on travel packs, the kind of suitcase that converts to a backpack, that I can use for evacuation, do I shell out the money for one?

Because I'm geared up for hiking, camping, air travel, and road trips, I'm undecided about how to transport my stuff in the event of evacuation by foot without buying a backpacker's backpack to serve as my Grab & Go bag and duplicating stuff to store in it all the time. I have practically everything I need. However, I don't want to risk robbing Peter to pay Paul only to get caught not repaying Peter before the SHTF.

For the category of Security, I'm still figuring out what to do since a lot of stuff was stolen out of my car trunk in 2007 in San Ysidro, CA. Almost everybody knows to keep valuables out of sight, but thieves know the car trunk is where people put them. Lacking a car alarm system, securing the trunk with a cable that sounds an alarm if cut might be the answer for rental cars in addition to long road trips where I have too much stuff to immediately take everything to my room.

The matter of self-defense is a highly personal one because of the variety of state and local laws governing guns, knives, pepper sprays or Mace, and stun guns. Not to mention the TSA.

Personally, I can't see any sense in buying a gun only to have it confiscated without compensation if I'm in a situation like those being bused out of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina who had to give up their guns and knives before being allowed to board a bus.

OTOH, I much rather have a gun than be raped.

On the other other hand, if I can evacuate soon enough, getting far enough away from whatever bad guys remain behind, the money spent buying a firearm would be wasted and better spent on a motel room.

For the time being, I'm relying on prayer and the Fox 40 Mini whistle on my key ring which will hurt a bad guy's ears, hopefully stunning him/them with ear pain long enough for me to get away while it signals my need for help.

Finally, the Entertainment category is covered, I'm sure, although I still intend to get a pocket-sized MP3 player to replace my portable CD player. Since it's low priority, no rush. My Kindle, pocket kite, playing cards, journal, camera, tin whistle, and watercolor paints, etc., should be plenty enough to keep me occupied if necessary in the meantime.

Writing it all up for this blog as promised is the bitch.

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